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Bog Child Hardcover – September 9, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—It is 1981, and 18-year-old Fergus lives on the border between Northern Ireland and the south. His older brother, Joe, a member of the Provisional IRA, is jailed at Long Kesh and joins a hunger strike. The family is traumatized, and Fergus does his best to comfort his mother and to convince Joe that his "sacrifice" for the cause is not worth it. Fergus has been pressured (blackmailed) to smuggle packages for the IRA, but wants nothing more than to leave Ireland and study to become a doctor. His life becomes even more complicated when he and his uncle discover the body of a young girl while pilfering peat. It turns out to be 2000 years old. Thus begins a double narrative that involves a love story and a discussion of destiny and self-sacrifice. Fergus's story includes his struggle to understand his brother's actions and his growing love for the daughter of the archaeologist called in to investigate the Iron Age discovery. Interspersed is the story of Mel, the bog child, who makes the ultimate sacrifice to unite her people, and who finds love at the end of her life. The two narratives work beautifully together. The love story between Fergus and Cora is depicted with tenderness, and their adolescent sexuality is sensitively portrayed. Readers will come away with a strong sense of the time periods (especially of the "Troubles") through dialogue and action. This compelling read is lyrically written and contains authentic dialogue and challenging and involving moral issues. It's a first, and a must-have purchase.—Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* While cutting peat in the Irish hills, Fergus McCann and his uncle discover a body preserved by the bog. Archaeologists and politicians fight over the find, while Fergus starts to dream about the past of the bog child he names “Mel.” Dowd slowly reveals the story of Mel’s mysterious death, an apparent murder, amid the 1980s troubles of Northern Ireland and the hunger strike of the Long Kesh political prisoners. Fergus’ imprisoned older brother joins the strike as Fergus is blackmailed into delivering packages that may contain bomb-making supplies. The history, which will likely be as unfamiliar to American teen readers as the story’s dialect, may need fleshing out with additional sources, but the intriguing characters and their motivations and sacrifices will translate directly to contemporary readers. The plotlines are braided together into a strong story that is rich in language, setting, and theme. Fans of David Almond’s work will savor the similar religious influences and the elements of magical realism. A budding romance with the archaeologist’s daughter, exuberant Cora, will delight readers, who will wonder, as Fergus does after his first kisses, “Why wasn’t the whole world doing this all the time, why?” Grades 8-11. --Cindy Dobrez

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 530L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2009
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books; 1st American Edition edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385751699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385751698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #753,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One wouldn't think that an Iron Age maiden, an archaeological discovery and Northern Ireland's infamous "Troubles" could be combined into a successful, even riveting, work of fiction. But talented author Siobhan Dowd does just that in BOG CHILD, a captivating novel that intertwines two eras of history in the story of one young man's coming of age.

Eighteen-year-old Fergus McCann is having a rough go of it. His older brother Joe, the "soldier" of the family, is incarcerated as a political prisoner because of his involvement with the Provisional Irish Republican Army. His parents are sick with worry, especially when Joe, inspired by the martyrdom of other high-profile prisoners, begins a hunger strike protest in jail. His younger sisters don't understand why everyone is so worried, or why Joe just can't get better and come home. As for Fergus, he has the dual worries of preparing for his driver's exam and his A levels. If he does well enough on his college prep exams, he'll be able to get into a pre-med program in Scotland --- and escape the violent Troubles in Northern Ireland once and for all.

The year is 1981, and IRA activity is at a peak. Fergus and his family live right on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, so close that he can cross the border into Ireland when he goes for a long run or (as they do at the novel's opening) when he and his uncle go to poach peat to sell for use as heating fuel.

That's when Fergus makes a discovery that will change everything. Peat moss has an uncanny ability to preserve whatever falls into it. So when Fergus finds a young girl's body, he is at first convinced that it's another IRA murder victim dumped in the bog.
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Format: Hardcover
"Bog Child," as other readers have mentioned is about 18 year old Fergus McCann living near the Republic of Ireland and North Ireland border in 1981 during The Troubles, an extended period of political violence between (among others) the Provisional IRA and the RUC, British Military in Ulster. While with his uncle one day, he discovers the body of a child in peat bog; as officials look into the body he becomes involved with the investigation through his imagined history of the child and the two Dubliners there to examine the body. "Bog Child" progresses to tell how Fergus is involved in running packages for the PIRA and how he deals with his brother's hunger strike in The Maze, a British prison.

The good: I loved reading this book. I greatly enjoyed "A Swift Pure Cry" and was saddened to hear that Siobhan Dowd had died. This book was a perfect blend of history, politics, romance and imagination. Fergus was a believable and likable character and the descriptions of the country side really added to the story. For Irish history buffs, this book combines just enough of the old stuff and the current problems without becoming a tedious history lesson.

The bad: This wasn't a problem for me, but others might not understand the political setting of the story. For example, one not familiar with The Troubles, the PIRA or Bobby Sands/Gerry Adams/Sinn Fein would be confused for quite a portion of the book. Brush on Ireland's recent history before reading, I'd advise.

Overall, highly recommended. "Bog Child" blended several genres into a powerful and intriguing story. While the story of the actual bog child was interesting, I was struck by the moral dilemma Fergus' family faced at the end regarding the brother in The Maze. (I especially liked the parallels between Fergus and Mel, despite 2000 years). Thought provoking, interesting read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book once before, when it was first published. I enjoyed the re-read even more as I have in the meantime visit Ireland/Northern Ireland, and read a number of non-fiction books regarding the troubles and the hunger strikers and taken several online courses on the subject. Even with the extra knowledge, I found the book to be a good way for people who are unfamiliar with the background to learn about this time in modern Irish history. Well done, Siobhan Dowd.
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Format: Hardcover
Talk about a rollercoaster of emotion while I was reading Siobhan Dowd's newest novel for teens! Bog Child had me both loving it at times and really not understanding it (both plot and dialect of characters) as well as being almost bored from it at times...all mixed into one novel. Yep, it was a doozy of a read for me.

In the bogs of Northern Ireland, we meet Fergus, along with his Uncle Tally who happen to be in the bogs illegally and find the body of what appears to be a child. Fergus makes a mental connection to this child, probably a murdered child, and she comes to him in his dreams, almost haunting him. While trying to deal with this girl in his head, whom he's nicknamed "Mel," Fergus is also hurting over his brother in prison, who has decided to join the hunger strikers and starve himself, as well as the "Troubles" his parents are constantly fighting over, and his growing feelings for the daughter of the woman working on the bog child.

In the midst of all the emotion, Fergus is blackmailed into becoming a courier for unknown packages, which deep down he feels are drugs, carrying them along the troubled border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the constant fear of being caught, but having no choice but to continue. Though very aware of right and wrong, Fergus knows that this is just another instance of complete "wrong" that has wormed its way into his life, with no sign of leaving anytime soon.

The Irish dialect is, at times, incredibly difficult to understand and though there is a huge dose of history in Bog Child, it's so blatant....too obvious for my liking. Which led to boredom on some pages. And that stinks! I wanted to love it it....

So how do I put a rating on Bog Child? How do I tell you all whether or not to go out and read it?
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